Centering LGBTQ+ Stories: Kids' Shows, Movies & Books to Help Your Family Celebrate Pride All Year

Ruby and Sapphire from "Steven Universe." | Photo Courtesy: Cartoon Network/HBO Max

In 2019, Arthur, the long-running PBS series about an anthropomorphic, school-aged aardvark, aired an episode called "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone." Colloquially, it became known as the "Gay Rat Wedding" episode, and it received a swell of support from queer fans, allies and organizations like GLAAD. However, even as recently as two years ago, that episode also faced immense backlash from homophobic detractors for portraying a queer wedding — for being inclusive. 

But this wasn't the first time the show depicted LGBTQ+ folks. Back in 2005, Arthur first faced backlash due to a spin-off episode, "Postcards From Buster." In it, Arthur’s rabbit pal, Buster, visited actual (live-action) families — and one of those families happened to be a lesbian couple from Vermont. The public outcry was so huge that the then-U.S. Secretary of Education demanded PBS return the public funds it used to create the episode. And that was just 16 years ago.

"Until very recently, LGBTQ+ people would look to media and not have any representation or would only have a negative stereotype to identify with," wrote April Sizemore-Barber, a professor in the women’s and gender studies program at Georgetown University. "This absence of stories leads to ignorance among members of the general public [who don’t see LGBTQ+ stories represented] and isolation for those who identify as LGBTQ+ and are implicitly told that they don’t exist."

In animation, for example, Disney has a long history of queer-coding its villains; even today, the studio reduces queer characters into blink-and-you-miss-it scenes, often played for laughs. So, yes, it’s clear that a lot of work needs to be done. And a lot of that work falls on the folks who are green-lighting shows and films. Arthur's one-off episode, for instance, can help normalize queer families, but shows like Steven Universe and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts are moving the dial even further on a more regular basis. 

So, what can we do as audiences to support queer and trans creators and their LGBTQ+-inclusive narratives? We can watch them — all year round. So, whether you’re looking to celebrate Pride Month, diversify your kids’ media intake year-round, or find positive representation for queer and trans kids who want to see themselves reflected in queer characters and stories, check out these must-watch TV shows and films that center queerness.